The Centre Monday launched a scheme to provide shelter, food and legal aid to minors who have been abandoned by their families due to pregnancy from rape.
Speaking to the media, Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani said the new scheme, launched under the aegis of the Nirbhaya scheme, is aimed at ensuring both infrastructural and financial support for pregnant minor victims who have no means to fend for themselves.
"We have additionally leveraged the administrative structure of Mission Vatsalya in collaboration with state governments and child care institutions to actualise this support to minor victims on the ground," she said.
Launched in 2021, Mission Vatsalya is focused on the protection and welfare of children.
Irani said this additional support under the new scheme will be available for girls up to the age of 18 years at the level of child care institutions (CCI) and for women up to 23 years at aftercare facilities.
Along with legal aid, the girls will also be provided with safe transportation for attending court hearings, she added.
The minister said the Centre has accelerated access to justice for minor rape victims by establishing 415 POCSO fast-track courts in the country.
According to National Crime Records Bureau data, 51,863 Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act cases were lodged in 2021, out of which 64 per cent were of penetrative sexual assault and aggravated penetrative sexual assault.
The new scheme covers minor girls who are victims of penetrative sexual assault and aggravated penetrative sexual assault.
A senior official said the scheme aims to facilitate immediate, emergency and non-emergency access to a range of services including access to education, police assistance, counselling, legal support, and insurance cover for the girl child victim and her newborn under one roof.
The medical benefits available to beneficiaries of the scheme include maternity, neo-natal and infant care, the official added.
It is not mandatory for the girl child victim to produce a copy of the FIR for availing of the benefits under the scheme. However, the persons responsible for the implementation of the scheme need to ensure that the police are informed and an FIR is registered, the official said.
Separate space will be allocated at the child care homes for the scheme's beneficiaries as her needs would be different from other children residing there.
A case worker will be appointed for taking care of the rape victims and separate funds shall be provided by the Centre to the child care home sheltering the scheme's beneficiaries.
Under Mission Vatsalya guidelines, provisions of dedicated child care institutions for POCSO victims will also be made to ensure the proper rehabilitation of such minors.
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